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How to manage Excavations

Most of people or contractors don’t take excavation safety seriously and workers are losing their lives due to collapsing excavations. Recently we heard about two people who lost their lives due to excavation safety failures.

Just go to your residential area to find an open excavation. That trench dug to provide you with Fibre to the home or water supply. These trenches are often left unprotected and chances of vehicles, people, children, blind people  etc. are exposed to this danger on a daily basis. Municipal workers, mostly from new sewerage and water installations come and excavate and leave these excavation unattended and unsupervised for unreasonably long periods.

Construction Regulation 13(1) states that an excavation, regardless of depth and width, must:

  • be carried under supervision of a competent person who has been appointed in writing for that that purpose. I often wonder whether we have competent people or not.
  • be subject to the evaluation of ground stability as far as reasonable practicable.

Furthermore, a contractor who performs excavation work, must take reasonable and sufficient steps in order to prevent, as far as is reasonable practicable, any person being buried or trapped by a fall or dislodgement of material in an excavation.

To ensure the safety of an excavation Joe Llane, a Safety Specialist at Sheqafrica Consulting provides the following advice:

  1. All excavation work must be done under the general supervision of a competent person who is appointed in writing.
  2. Before commencement of the work the contractor must evaluate the stability of the ground and determine which steps are to be taken to ensure the safety of persons performing the work or visiting the site.
  3. This assessment will include:
    1. Preventing any person to fall into excavation
    2. Preparation of emergency procedure
    3. Preventing people being trapped or buried by a fall of the soil in to excavation
    4. Not allowing any person to enter or work in an excavation  which has  not been shored or braced , except  where the  soil  is stable or sloped  to an angle less than the angle of repose
    5. Ensuring that the shoring is strong enough to withstand the forces in the side of the excavation
    6. Ensuring that no vehicle come close enough to the excavation to destabilize the sides of the excavation
    7. Provide safe escape routes within 6 meters from where persons are working
    8. Take care not to damage any underground services which might be hidden under the surface
    9. Barricade and protect the area around excavation to prevent people or animals falling into it, and to display the required symbolic signs and notices
    10. All excavation must be inspected daily by competent person prior allowing persons to enter the work areas. This inspection is also mandatory after the use of explosives, rain or incident which might cause the destabilization of the soil